Byron Buckley, Associate Editor
Left: Portia Simpson Miller's People's National Party is now trailing the Jamaica Labour Party in popular support. - Peta-Gaye Clachar/Staff PhotographerRight: Bruce Golding's JLP has moved ahead of the governing PNP. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer
With the general election just four days away, the Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has opened up a four percentage point lead in popular support over the Portia Simpson Miller-led People's National Party (PNP), which appears to have suffered a political fallout in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean.
Golding has also surpassed Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as the leader the electorate thinks would do a better job as Prime Minister. The governing party has also been apparently hurt by the slow process of relief after Hurricane Dean slammed into Jamaica on Sunday, August 19. "The hurricane has opened up the floodgates for the JLP," said one political analyst who spoke with The Gleaner yesterday.
According to the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, conducted on the weekend, 42 per cent of 1,008 persons interviewed in 84 communities islandwide say they will vote for the JLP, while 38 per cent chose the PNP. In Johnson's previous poll, conducted on August 18, a day before Hurricane Dean struck the island, the PNP and JLP were tied at 40 per cent each in popular support.
In fact, the PNP has been stuck at 40 per cent since mid-July after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced the election date.
"The trend seems to be moving in many different areas in favour of the JLP," says pollster Johnson in his analysis. I think people are still looking for a reason why they should vote for the PNP, whereas the JLP has given a reason, albeit not a strong one, of the need for a change."
The recent poll findings show the PNP leading among women - 40 per cent (to the JLP's 38 per cent) and the JLP leading among men - 47 per cent (to the PNP's 36 per cent). In terms of age groups, the JLP leads the PNP among persons age 18 to 44 as well as 55 to 64. The PNP leads in the 45 to 54, and 65-and-older age cohorts.
In his latest poll Johnson found, for the first time this year, that Golding - at 41 per cent - has eclipsed Portia Simpson Miller - 40 per cent - as the leader the electorate thinks would do a better job as Prime Minister. Nineteen per cent are undecided about which leader would be the better head of government.
It is the first time since March 2006 that Golding has surpassed Simpson Miller in Johnson surveys, as the person best suited to be Prime Minister. Analysis of Johnson's findings for the last three months show a constant rating for Simpson Miller, while Golding's figures have increased by nine percentage points over the period.
In a poll conducted the day before the passage of Hurricane Dean, Simpson Miller had received 45 per cent popular support, five more than Golding, as the preferred candidate for Prime Minister. But in the aftermath of the hurricane, the Prime Minister has rapidly lost five points while Golding has gained one.
Regarding the impact of Hurricane Dean on the government's political fortunes, Johnson's latest findings show that overall 54 per cent of persons interviewed are dissatisfied with how the hurricane relief programme was being handled. In the seven parishes worst affected by the recent hurricane, 55 per cent of respondents are dissatisfied with the government-led relief programme, while 31 per cent are satisfied. In other parishes not significantly affected by Dean, 49 per cent are dissatisfied with the relief response, while 39 are satisfied.
Sixty-six per cent of those who are satisfied with the relief efforts said that they will vote for the PNP against 20 per cent for the JLP; 61 per cent of those who are dissatisfied said they will cast their vote for the JLP against 17 per cent for the PNP. For those who were unsure about their level of satisfaction with the hurricane relief efforts, 51 per cent said that they would vote for the PNP against 24 per cent for the JLP.
The pollster also found that 38 per cent of persons interviewed did not have electricit the Jamaica Public Service Company was reporting a higher figure; 50 per cent had water; and 68 per cent agreed with the state of emergency requested by the Prime Minister in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.
But, the poll with a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, found that Simpson Miller still holds the position as the most likeable politician, receiving favourability ratings of 50 per cent and unfavourability figures of 37 per cent. In comparison, Golding's favourability rating is 47 per cent with unfavourability figures of 38 per cent. This is a significant improvement over the JLP leader's figures in Johnson's June poll results - 35 percent favourable and 42 per cent unfavourable.
Johnson's latest poll results also show the JLP and PNP even at 44 per cent each in favourability ratings, while the PNP is three points higher in unfavourability figures. The parties are also even at 41 per cent each in the area of 'best party for the job'.
How many seats will the winning party take home?We have the answer. Watch for our seat-by-seat breakdown in The Sunday GleanerYou can't afford to miss this! It's a must-read